The “ice cream” sign hanging above 402 E. Girard Ave. may deceive some at first. It overshadows a smaller sign underneath it, which marks Fishtown’s newest Mediterranean and vegetarian restaurant.
Those who come inside Falafel Hummus will find an array of sights and smells. A sign hangs in the wall that reads, “Good Food, Good Life.” Another lists the “Recipe for Happiness,” whose ingredients include one bag of smiles, two pounds of positivity and two spoonfuls of simplicity.
Restaurant owner Amr Ghazi, known to many as Amir, embodies these three ingredients. Almost always smiling, he is optimistic about what the place has in store, despite opening just over two weeks ago and having little to no advertising to promote the new business.
The restaurant’s small and simple layout is designed in a way that welcomes the customers in and encourages them to sample a new and unique cuisine.
“I am very lucky,” Ghazi said. “The people in the neighborhood have been so incredibly welcoming and accepting.”
Neighbor and customer David Temino, a longtime Fishtown resident, said he’s always looking to try new foods.
“I’ve never tried Mediterranean food,” Temino said. “This is all new to me. I think this place will take off, personally. Believe me, I know my food.”
Although falafel and hummus washed down with a banana smoothie may not seem like the most conventional of food combinations, Ghazi said he hopes the vegetarian cuisine, along with the options to order various fresh fruit smoothies and recovery shakes, will attract customers who are trying to live a more health-conscious lifestyle.
“Everyone’s trying to be healthy,” he said. “It’s good for you and the young people love it.”
This restaurant is not only for health nuts, however. Customers can choose from a variety of options, such as gyros, wraps and even homemade pizza. Ghazi prepares his food daily. Anything served a day later, he said, does not taste as fresh. The falafel is baked, not fried, and the smoothies are made from fresh fruit and yogurt.
Customers can call in their order for take out or delivery, or eat their meal inside at the small wooden tables or on a stool at a granite countertop.
Opening his own business has been Ghazi’s longtime dream. Since moving to the United States in 1987 from Egypt, where many of his dishes originated, Ghazi worked his way up from a simple cook at a restaurant in Virginia to the assistant manager.
“It’s a dream of everyone to be able to come over to America and own their own business,” Ghazi said.
Since moving to the area in the ‘90s, Ghazi worked in construction and as a cook in the former Green Olive Market in Northern Liberties.
It was his large friend base in Fishtown that initially lured Ghazi to open shop in the neighborhood. After living on 2nd Street since November, he said he’s grown to love the young locals.
Neighborhood residents are also embracing the unique cuisine Falafel Hummus has to offer.
“We certainly don’t need another pizza place or hamburger joint,” Temino said.
Ghazi said: “People are coming in and telling me they’re so glad I’m here, and that finally someone is doing something different.”
Tyler Hayduk from Fishtown has been to Falafel Hummus three times since it opened. He’s tried the gyro, falafel and a couple smoothies, he said.
“The first time I saw it opened I actually thought it was an ice cream store,” Hayduk said. Although the erroneous sign is still hung outside his new restaurant, Ghazi said he will take it down soon to avoid confusion.
“The food’s great and affordable,” Hayduk said. “It’s a really friendly environment. I would definitely recommend it.”